The 19th Bladesman

Shadow Sword series

Fiction - Fantasy - Epic
631 Pages
Reviewed on 12/26/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

S.J. Hartland is an emerging epic fantasy writer from Australia. She is a journalist and fencer who watches too much TV and has spent too many holidays wandering around obscure castles.
Susan spent many years in Sydney, but now calls the Darling Downs, Queensland, home.
The 19th Bladesman is her first published book. The second in the series, The Last Seer King, will be released in May, 2019.
Susan was mentored by the amazing Dr Kathryn Heyman.
There's nothing Susan likes better than talking characters. She's on Facebook and email at

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.J. Simmill for Readers' Favorite

In The 19th Bladesman by S.J. Hartland, Kaell's destiny had been written long before he was ever born. It was his destiny to fight the ghouls, to keep their forces at bay, and to die young. But there is more to this title than just that. The 19th Bladesman had another prophecy attached to him. If the 19th Bladesman is broken, then an evil god seeking dominion over all will be freed from his prison, and the prophecy states he will be broken. Prophecies of death and consequences see many who seek Kaell's death, only the manner of its deliverance varies, depending on whose side they are on. Fate has been kind in sparing him twice, once as a child and once again as a young man once more in the same woman's clutches, but will his luck hold out? Can he overcome what fate has in store, and if he does, can he live with the consequences?

S.J. Hartland writes the kind of action scenes that effortlessly draw the reader in and have them visualizing the flurry of movement in such a masterful way that I have only ever encountered in a handful of authors. However, it is not only the fast-paced, heart-pounding action where the author excels, but the world building is also phenomenal, with clear attention paid to provide a rich culture, society, history, religion and structure. The scenes flow effortlessly into one another, making its size as an epic barely noticeable as you turn page after page, losing yourself in a clearly well-constructed plot that is driven by the varied cast of vivid characters. The characters are every bit as deep and complex as the world itself, each sporting their own drives, ambitions, agendas, and, of course, flaws. Danger lurks at every turn, and trust is a difficult commodity to invest in. Action, betrayal, peril, insight, and the moxie to defy fate itself propel the reader through a rollercoaster adventure like no other. I love a big book, and give this one my full recommendation, something I save only for the books that really make me invest in the plot and characters. The 19th Bladesman is my kind of story, and I can't wait to see where S.J. Hartland takes us next.

K.C. Finn

The 19th Bladesman is a work of epic fantasy penned by debut author S.J. Hartland, and is the first book in the Shadow Sword series. Focused very much in the sword and sorcery style of Martin and Tolkien, we meet Kaell, a young man fated to die by the sword because of his bond with the ancient gods. Kaell understands his calling as a killer and a sacrifice for the sake of the gods, but the young man wants much more from his life than the destiny he’s been given. Alongside this, his master, Val Arques, forces himself not to connect with the young man fated to die, despite having terrible secrets of his own.

It takes a while to get into the world which author S.J. Hartland has created, but it’s well worth the epic journey that this deeply involved fantasy novel slowly unwinds. For readers who enjoy deep world building and taking their time to get to know the characters, lore and religion of an entirely new world, Kaell’s epic story will reward them on every page. I was really drawn to Val Arques when reading because of the mystery surrounding him, and it was intriguing to see his secrets unveiled as the plot progressed. There are many other POVs brought in to tell this tale from different and equally deadly angles, all of which were satisfying when they were drawn together by the novel’s conclusion. Overall, The 19th Bladesman brings a new world to the epic fantasy shelves, one which hardcore fans will take to their hearts.

Debjani Ghosh

Kaell is a swordsman bonded to the ancient gods and can fight for them alone. Bonded warriors are doomed to die young as they are trained to fight the monstrous, blood-sucking ghouls. But Kaell doesn't fear for his life. All he wants is his Lord's love. However, Lord Vraymorg is unwilling to acknowledge his feelings towards Kaell for love means pain. But Kaell is also the “19th Bladesman” prophesied to bring down a banished god. When this foul god escapes from his prison, what havoc shall he wreak? Can Kaell thwart him? Because “if Kaell breaks, the kingdom breaks with him”. The 19th Bladesman, the first book in the Shadow Sword series, by S. J. Hartland is a remarkable fantasy novel.

S.J. Hartland has created a magnificent world in this epic fantasy tome. However, don’t let the book’s length deter you from picking it up. The captivating story line ensured that I made short work of it in a week. Due to fantastic world building aided by a delicate balance between showing and telling and a brisk pace, I was completely immersed in The 19th Bladesman. All the characters, right from the protagonist to even the ordinary soldier, are engaging and memorable. Everyone's motives for their actions are intriguing whether you agree with them or not. Every character has depth, and almost all are gray. Seemingly ethical ones do treacherous acts in the name of duty, while the villains perform kind deeds which tug at your heart. Further, the action scenes are splendid. I could visualize every parry and hear every clank of the clashing swords.

Twists abound in this novel; the plot thickens with every page, but I found no difficulty in following it. The multiple points of view enrich this novel by showcasing the thoughts of every major player in Hartland’s world. The first book, with an unexpected ending, allows only a glimpse into this complex world, and I am already eager for more. The Shadow Sword series is a welcome new addition to the fantasy genre, and I recommend it to every fantasy fan.